Dear Chief Secretary to the Treasury,
I'm afraid to tell you there's no money left.
Signed, Liam Byrne

(Outgoing Labour Chief Secretary to the Treasury. May 2010)

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

A question of DNA

From Hansard here
debate 18th May 2009
T3. [275737] Norman Baker (Lewes) (LD): Following the question from my hon. Friend the Member for Hazel Grove (Andrew Stunell) about DNA samples, may I ask whether the Minister really thinks it appropriate to keep samples for six or 12 years, given that the European Court of Human Rights has lauded the Scottish model in which no samples from innocent people are kept except samples from those who have been acquitted of a sexual or violent offence, which are kept for three years? Why do we not adopt that model?
The Minister for Security, Counter-Terrorism, Crime and Policing (Mr. Vernon Coaker): The hon. Gentleman’s question gives me another opportunity to put on record the Government’s categorical statement that we will not
18 May 2009 : Column 1202
retain samples, which are genetic material, for longer than six months. As for profiles, to which I think he is referring, we know that keeping the profiles of those who have been arrested will enable us to solve crimes in the future. That is a proportionate approach.

If the hon. Gentleman reads what was actually said in the European Court judgment, he will find that the objection was to the indiscriminate, blanket nature of our policy, and that keeping DNA from those who had been arrested was not considered necessarily to be wrong.

Well, actually, Mrs R isn't impressed by that, not one little bit.

Her impression was that the European Court judgement said they should not retain DNA of those who are either not guilty or who were merely profiled because they happened to be somewhere where a crime had been committed, and needed to be excluded from possible suspects. Children's DNA has been collected and stored, simply because they live in houses that have been burgled.

Throwing away the DNA and keeping details of the genetic profile- presumably for ever - isn't good enough. It might comply "in spirit" with the ruling, but for goodness sake, an analysis can be wrongly labelled and it can be wrongly assigned - and it can be tampered with. This decision might be even worse than retaining the DNA itself.

This is yet another case of innocent until found guilty, and ties in neatly with ACPO's thoughts that everybody is a potential villain.

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